What is Rosé Champagne?
Champagne is a sparkling wine that gets its bubbles from a second fermentation in a bottle and comes from the Champagne region of France. Rosé Champagne has a pinkish hue that comes from brief skin contact during the fermentation process or by adding red wine to a finished Champagne. Rosé Champagne is usually a blend of grapes Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay.
Where does Rosé Champagne come from?
Like all Champagne, Rosé Champagne comes from the region of France with the same name. For a sparkling wine to be called Champagne, by law, it must come from this region, which is about two hours outside of Paris. Champagnes are created by a precise process called Methode Champenoise that adds effervescence to still wine.
Back in the 1600s and 1700s, monks made most of the wine in France. Like Dom Pierre Perignon, the blind Benedictine monk who made Champagne fashionable, Dom Thierry Ruinart was a wine innovator, too. Ruinart launched the very first Rosé champagne sold commercially in 1764, and it's still a favorite among connoisseurs today. Eleven years later, in 1775, Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin introduced her Veuve Clicquot Rosé Champagne. Dom Perignon Rosé debuted nearly 200 years later in 1959. Now, all these Champagne grande marques are one happy family, along with Moet et Chandon, under the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy luxury brand empire.
How is Rosé Champagne made?
Just like other Champagnes, Rosé Champagne starts as a still wine blend–usually Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier—and it develops bubbles during a process called Méthode Champenoise or the Champagne Method. The wine gets its pink hue from contact with red grape skins or by adding red wine to clear Champagne or by bleeding off some pink wine while making red wine.
Here is the most common method for making Rosé Champagne:
- The winemaking process starts with picking grapes at the right time. The grapes used in making Champagne are picked earlier than for grapes used for still wines because the winemaker aims to use fruit that has higher acidity and less sugar
- The grapes are de-stemmed, and then white grapes like Chardonnay or Pinot Gris are pressed off the skins. With red grapes like Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the juice and skins may soak together for a short time to tint the wine pink and add some red fruit character. Then the skins are removed.
- Next, each type of juice (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, etc.) is fermented on its own to create a base wine. The juice goes in a big tank or barrel, and yeast is added to start fermentation. As the yeast eats the sugar in grape juice, the sugar turns into alcohol. This step is called the primary fermentation.
- Once the fermentation is over, the winemaker tastes each type of wine. Then then create a blend, adding older wines from previous harvests, so the final base wine fits the flavor profile they want. This step is called assemblage.
- The blend is bottled, topped with a mixture of wine, sugar, and yeast and sealed. As the yeast eats the sugar, it creates alcohol and CO2 bubbles that get trapped in the liquid. This second fermentation inside a bottle is what makes the Methode Champenoise unique. The yeast cells in the bottle give the wine aromas and flavors of bread crust, toast, and nuts.
- After the wine has aged long enough, the bottles are carefully turned and tilted downward, so the yeast settles in the neck of the bottle. Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, the Widow Clicquot, invented riddling, the process to clarify the Champagne.
- Once the yeast has settled at the top of the bottle, the neck of each bottle is frozen and then opened quickly to remove the yeast in a process called disgorgement.
- The Champagne is topped off with a mix of little more wine and sugar called the dosage (or just wine in a dry brut nature Champagne) to round out the flavors and give the wine the desired level of sweetness.
- Then each bottle is sealed with a mushroom cork and a metal cage. It's aged for a short time to allow the wine to overcome the shock of bottling; then, it's sent out for sale.
How does a Rosé Champagne taste?
The taste of Rosé Champagne can vary depending on the house style and the mix of grapes used. Dom Perignon Rosé and Dom Ruinart are very crisp and dry with very subtle red fruit flavors, while Bollinger Rosé is more bold with tart plums, berries, and toasty notes.
What is a good Rosé Champagne?
There are many exquisite rosé champagnes available, so it's just a matter of finding one that fits your tastes. Dom Ruinart Rosé Champagne is very dry and crisp, Billecart Salmon Brut Rosé is dry with deep red fruit notes, while Moet et Chandon Nectar Imperial Rose has a touch of sweetness.
Why is Rosé Champagne more expensive?
Rosé Champagne is more expensive than other styles of Champagne for two reasons: Rosé is rarer than brut Champagne and all Rosés are more challenging to create. There are a few different ways to create a Rosé Champagne, and the winemaker needs to make a series of decisions and then execute those steps flawlessly to ensure success.
The Rosé Champagne must have a pinkish hue and a bit of flavor from the grape skins, but not too much. So they have to carefully monitor the amount of time the grape skins are in contact with the fermenting grape juice. When the right amount of color and flavor is extracted, the skins must be quickly removed. Other winemakers make Rosé wine by first making red wine and then bleeding off some of the pink juice at the right stage to create a Rosé. Or, they can make clear Brut Champagne and add red wine to create a Rosé. So with all these variables, making rosé champagne that looks and tastes the same year after year can be quite challenging.
Is Rosé Champagne sweet?
A typical Rosé Champagne is not sweet, but they can be made in that style. In order to make a sweet Rosé, like Chandon Nectar Imperial Rosé or Veuve Clicquot Rich Rosé, a dosage with more sugar is added at the end of the winemaking process.
What are the popular brands of Rosé Champagne?
Total Wine & More has all the most popular rosé Champagnes. With such a wide selection of French Rosé Champagne, you can be sure to find a few that you'll like.
Some of the most popular brands of Rosé Champagne we carry include:
Browse our full selection of Champagne wines and take home a couple of bottles of the best Rosés that the Champagne region has to offer.
Want to learn more about Rosé Champagne?
Visit our Guide to Champagne and Sparkling Wines to learn more about all the best styles of sparkling wines and Champagnes, including our favorite Rosé Champagnes.